Monday, January 31, 2011

A Twitter Tale & A (Free) Giveaway

If there’s one thing common among all the Twitter skeptics out there, it is this: They all ask, ‘Who cares what you had for lunch?’

If I could make lunch out of it, Twitter skepticism would feed many hungry mouths. But skepticism doesn’t feed anything. Okay, except for maybe fear, distrust, doubt and suspicion. So I thought perhaps I’d share my own experiences of how I use Twitter and what I gain from it to quell some of that skepticism. So here goes:

1) Promote my work and my skills
For me, Twitter is a great channel to share my work and interests – it’s a way to build my online brand. I use Twitter to not only share my blog posts but also share other compelling content that would interest others. Overall, I find it a great interactive network to spread the word about who I am, what I do and what my professional expertise and interests lie in. On occasion, it's also helped me find freelance projects to work on. 

2) Connect with other communications professionals
I’ve always been proactive about networking and building new connections. But one challenge I always faced was continuing the conversation beyond the one-time meeting at a conference or event. Though I usually followed-up over email or sent an invitation to connect over LinkedIn, I found it tough to sustain the relationship. Sending emails every once-in-a-while just seemed too intrusive. With Twitter, I’ve found the perfect solution. It’s now easy for me to stay on the radar of people I follow -- by commenting on or retweeting what others say. It’s a great way to stay connected -- minus all the awkwardness.

I also participate in the weekly #solopr chats (every Wednesday 1-2 pm EST.) where solo PR professionals get together to discuss trends and issues relating to PR and working independently. I’ve connected offline with some of the connections I made over the solopr chat and even turned to them for help and advice. I also chime in on other chats from time-to-time such as the #PR20 and #SEOchat – all of which helps me learn from others and make new connections.

3) Keep up with latest trends
Twitter is much like a personalized RSS feed – I receive updates from those whom I choose to follow and can keep track of latest developments in the PR/communications/social media field. An amazing variety of content is shared on Twitter every day and this gives me an opportunity to learn from the best in the field and keep track of latest trends, events, webinars and news that I may otherwise have missed.

4) Make friends
I’ve ‘met’ a wide variety of extremely talented, interesting, highly motivated, cool and generally awesome people from all over the world, over Twitter. Some of my Twitter friends are now my Facebook friends, and I’ve actually met (face-to-face) some of my local Twitter friends at Tweetups and other events.

5) Preserve my sanity
Moving from a country where your neighbor not only knows what you cooked for dinner but how many people attended your dinner party (India) to a country where most neighbors don’t know your name (United States) can be an uprooting experience. I don’t mean that in a bad way -- I love the fact that there is so much respect for other people’s space and privacy here but all said and done, it can be an unsettling and even (shall I say the word?) a lonely experience.

At the risk of sounding a little loony, I find Twitter has often served as a channel to preserve my sanity. There’s something strangely therapeutic about broadcasting your thoughts (and being careful about what you broadcast, of course) out in the Twitterverse, even if nobody is listening or responding. It’s why people handwrote entries in personal diaries they didn’t allow anyone else to read. Y’all know what I mean?

Sure, there are people who tweet what they had for lunch and other seemingly inane details of their lives. But let’s face it -- don’t people send random email forwards? Should that make us stop using email? A lot also depends on what interests you and your audience. I have food blogger friends who live, breathe, eat and write food -- and sure enough, they’re quite interested in sharing and learning about what they and others are having for lunch. Like I said, a lot depends on what interests you and your audience.

My food blogger friend @sabera posted this on Twitpic. 

THE GIVEAWAY: So that’s my Twitter tale. Share yours to enter the free giveaway. Leave a comment below on how you use Twitter. Or share some Twitter tips. If you’re not on Twitter, tell us why. The giveaway closes on February 15 at midnight, EST and is only open to current U.S. residents.

One randomly selected commenter will win a copy of Real-time Marketing and PR by David M. Scott (Read my post about the book here.) If you’ve already read the book, I can offer you Unmarketing by Scott Stratten instead. If you’ve read Unmarketing too, then you don’t need a free book. (I kid, I would be happy to work something else out within the same price range.)

A few rules and other details:
1. You need to leave a comment to participate in the giveaway.
2. I reserve the right to delete spam-like comments, which will not qualify to participate in the giveaway.
3. The giveaway is only open to current U.S. residents and includes the cost of shipping.
4. The giveaway is not sponsored by anyone other than the author of this blog.
5. I will announce the winner of the giveaway on this blog and via email on or after February 16.
6. I will assign a number to each commenter and use the random number generator ( to pick out the winner. I’ll also post a screenshot of the result.
7. The winner will have two weeks to send me their mailing address after I contact him/her. 

P.S. I love being praised and being agreed with, but hey, I know you can do better than only saying "great post" or "I agree with you" in your comment. So don’t be a lazy commenter -- share something that will help me and others learn. Thanks in advance! 

February 16. Addendum: Andddd.... the winner of the book giveaway is... Moksh Juneja. Congratulations! 

 (Note: The first commenter was not eligible to participate and hence the number range is from 2-12.)

A big thank you to each of you who participated and contributed so much to the discussion. Thanks also to all my friends who helped promote the giveaway.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Riding The Real-Time Communications Wave

Surf by Lorando Labbe, on Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, I finally got my hands on David Meerman Scott’s latest book, Real-time Marketing and PR, which I’d been wanting to read for a while. If you’re in the communications, marketing or public relations business, I would highly recommend this book. I learned a lot from reading the New Rules of Marketing and PR, D.M. Scott’s earlier book, and this one did not disappoint either.

Technology has always shaped how we communicate and the growth of the Internet (and now smart phones) has spurred a huge revolution in the ways and the speed with which we can connect with each other.  This has transformed traditional marketing, public relations, sales, customer service and even journalism, as how we find, consume, create and share content is changing very rapidly. And in his book, Scott argues that most organizations are not prepared for this new revolution. With traditional media no longer being the only source of news and information, public relations and marketing professionals must now react and act faster to take advantage of an opportunity or to prevent a crisis.

Earlier this month, a homeless guy named Ted Williams stood with a sign along the northbound I-71 highway in Columbus, Ohio, proclaiming he had a god-given gift of voice and asking for help. On January 4, a  reporter from The Columbus Dispatch recorded his voice and story in a 97-second video and posted it on the newspaper’s website, where it soon became a huge Internet sensation generating millions of views. Media interviews and job offers started rolling in.

On Friday, January 7, on the evening television news, I saw Ted Williams stepping inside a limousine with his mom in Times Square, New York. This was the same guy who was homeless and standing with a sign by the highway a week ago. Wow, he was really riding that wave. (And why not?) But there were others who rode that wave with him, and were quick to spot the opportunity in the story.

While many job offers immediately poured in, very often, being first is everything. And Kraft Foods responded very, very quickly. Luckily, they were already in the middle of making their TV spots so while the story was still getting bigger, they not only hired Ted Williams to do a voiceover for their Fight Hunger Bowl commercial, but also recorded and premiered the commercial on ESPN during the Nevada vs. Boston College Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on January 9.

By January 7, most online sites and publications had posted the commercial video, which Kraft had obviously released earlier to generate online buzz.  Since Ted Williams was still doing numerous media interviews and this was his first voiceover, the Kraft Food commercial was mentioned and aired many, many times. As a result, the ad has obviously received a lot more attention than would have otherwise been possible.

Throughout his book, Scott stresses on cultivating a real-time mindset and making speed, agility and flexibility your power tools in reacting and taking advantage of opportunities in real-time, just like in the example above.  There are some excellent lessons here for all organizations because real-time is more of a mindset that must be adopted by organizations inside out – not just in PR or marketing but within all aspects of business. With social media, we have the tools at our disposal -- it’s up to us how we want to make use of them. Now, are you ready to ride the wave?

Do you have a real-time communications tip or success story to share? How do you think organizations can better adapt to the real-time communications revolution? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Engaging Alumni Through Social Media

Foreword: My good friend, Amishi Shah, a graduate student of Public Policies and Administration at the Ohio State University, recently completed her thesis on engaging alumni through social media. I invited her to write a guest post on my blog and share the lessons she learned.

By Amishi Shah

Image Credit: Amishi Shah
How many of you receive alumni magazines or e-mails from your former college? Does your graduate school have a dedicated page for alumni on social media websites? As a graduate student of Public Policies and Administration at the Ohio State University, my thesis topic was the‘Engaging Alumni of Public Affairs Schools through Social Networking: An Examination of the Scope and Rules of Engagement.'

I looked at the different ways through which Public Affairs colleges use social media sites – particularly Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - to connect with its alumni. I observed that some schools used social networking sites in a variety of ways and for various purposes, while there were some that do not have a dedicated social media presence for alumni – mainly due to lack of time and resources required to maintain and update the page frequently.

One of the biggest reasons that individual departments should  engage with alumni using social media channels, distinct from the University’s umbrella website, is that this would allow alumni to receive updates and information about their particular field of interest. For example, following or ‘liking’ an official university alumni page or profile will give you information about all schools – medical, business, arts, political science, etc. This can help you stay updated with key developments in your field, you may have otherwise missed. This is where having social media profiles for your school alumni will be truly important.

Once the page is set up, it can be used in different ways:
1.Schools use social media profiles for alumni to disseminate information about employment opportunities. At a time when the nation faces a high percentage of unemployment, this feature is useful for recent graduates who are looking for a job or those who are already employed and are looking to move up the ladder.

2. Another way that colleges use social networking sites is for professional networking. For example, there were some schools where LinkedIn was used by employed people who wanted to collaborate either with their former professors or others in their field. Former students had put their request on LinkedIn to get help from fellow members of that to collaborate for research or work purposes.

3. Some schools also had different groups within the alumni group. For example, there were groups for students living in Boston, Washington D.C, Chicago and other areas where more alumni live and work – providing greater possibilities for professional networking.

My research also focused on potential issues with using social media to engage with alumni. These included questions such as: Are members comfortable with sharing all this information on social forums and also whether the college staff is concerned about inappropriate or negative comments? The Alumni Coordinators noted that the alumni are a very mature group and they are not worried about untowardly messages being posted on the alumni pages. One cautionary step that most schools take is to screen messages before they are posted on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Based on my interviews with alumni coordinators, and learning about their concerns, a few general tips would help develop a good online relationship with alumni:

1. Provide links for alumni to connect to the department’s Facebook and Twitter page from the department’s home page.
2. Posting one message a day would be appropriate. It has been reported that posting several messages a day overwhelms members, resulting in them opting out or stop following that page.
3. Personalize the messages, so that members feel connected to their alma mater.
4. Respond to members posts and comments that they may add to your post. This will make them feel that their suggestions are being heard and considered.

Amishi is a Graduate Student at John Glenn School of Public Affairs, at the Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio. She will complete a degree in Public Policies and Administration in March 2011. She has been working at the Ohio Department of Health for a year and a half. With previous experience as an Associate Editor and Writer for newspapers and magazines, she hopes to combine her experience as a writer and policy analyst. Amishi can be reached at:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trendspotting With Social Media

2011: Trendspotting For The Next Decade
is a marketing book by Richard Laermer,
published in 2008.
It’s that time of the year again when blog posts with numbered lists of the top predictions and trends for the year, crowd your Twitter stream. I'm sharing a few here:

1. 2011 Social Media Predictions: Now Social Media Marketing Gets Tough - Forrester blog
2. Trendspotting:  A Top 100 List of Things to Watch in 2011 - ReadWriteWeb
3. 10 Social Media Trends For 2011 - Entrepreneur

But that’s not what this post is about. What it is about, though, is how easy it is for us to now spot trends and tap into what’s hot in real time – all thanks to social media and web metrics.

Let me share a few examples:

1. Once newspapers moved online, for the first time, it became possible to track what people are viewing and commenting on, how much time they spend reading a story and what type of content is popular. Newspapers can now also track how much advertising revenue is being generated from a particular story. (See the New York Times story on this.)

2. In 2008, Google launched Google Flu Trends that uses aggregated Google search data to estimate current flu patterns around the world in near real-time, opening up the possibility of an early-warning system for influenza outbreaks (though the accuracy of the tool has been questioned, this is still representative of all the potential benefits search data can provide us in future.)

3. Facebook was not only the most visited website but also the most popular search term in 2010. Recently, Facebook released its 2010 report that threw up lots of interesting facts and figures, such as:

- Lady Gaga was the most ‘liked’ celebrity of the year with 24,712,169 likes.
- 1,000,000 links were shared over Facebook every 20 minutes
- HMU or ‘Hit Me Up’ was the most-discussed phrase on Facebook in 2010. This was followed by the World Cup and movies (Toy Story 3, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Inception, Alice in Wonderland and Iron Man 2 were the five most discussed movies in 2010.)

I am constantly amazed by the insights and information we now have access to thanks to the Web and social media. It fascinates me that we can tap into what people are saying about a particular subject at any point of time using the Twitter search/ hashtag feature. Unlike traditional print content, it’s possible for us to track what was shared online, how often and on what channel –what piqued someone’s interest, how they got there and whether they found it compelling enough. This presents a great opportunity for marketers, researchers and anyone interested in getting their pulse on popular public activity or opinion.

A tool I find immensely useful for spotting trends on a daily basis is Twitter. When you log in, on the right hand side of your Twitter home page, Twitter displays a list of 10 topics that are trending or most popular at any given time. Sometimes, topics are inane but most often, they help me spot important news items that I may have missed or help me gauge what a majority of the Twitter community is discussing or what’s on top of everyone’s minds on a given day, at a given time. (Lately, I've heard CNN anchors discuss what topics are trending during their news shows.)

Google Hot Trends is a similar tool that gives you a list (updated hourly) of hot topics and hot searches based on the popularity of searches on its engine. Google Analytics can also be a great tool for analyzing trends in how people consume your own content on your blog or Website and help you better customize it based on popularity.

What tools do you use to spot and keep track of latest trends? Share your tips in the comments sections below.
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